Inside the Benson neighborhood lives an escape from reality where childlike creativity and innovation come together to create an experience vastly different from an ordinary coffee shop.
Edge of the Universe is a coffee and cocktail shop inspired by changing themes. Upon entering, you’re greeted by a 12-foot-tall mural painted by co-owner, Adam Van Osdel, along with other artworks by local artists. The smell of fresh pastries fills the air, as the sound of an espresso machine whirls in the background. Themed specialty cocktails adorn the bar. The themes are brilliantly put together with extravagant artwork, props and decorations, taking the visitor to a new world.
One of the café’s recent themes, Witches Brew, found inspiration from the “Harry Potter” books and movies. Patrons found a fireplace speckled with “floo powder,” a large “whomping willow” that hung over the establishment and various cauldrons filled with decorations and flowers. The store also offered replicas of wands from prominent characters in “Harry Potter” for purchase.
Owner Rachel Evans says months, sometimes years, go into planning the themes. Each theme is carefully crafted with attention to detail and much time is poured into perfecting it.
“I started buying pieces for our Witches Brew theme before we even opened,” Evans says.
Evans opened Edge of the Universe with her partner, Van Osdel in October 2020. The store originally planned to open in June 2020, but the couple faced numerous setbacks due to the pandemic.
They also faced issues with plumbing, construction and setup.
The couple feared their new business would succumb to the pandemic. To this day, Evans says she often works 70 hours or more a week to maintain their business.
Despite their fears, Edge of the Universe was voted “Omaha’s Best Date Spot” by the Best of Omaha in 2020 and 2021.
Evans says she’s dreamed of opening an art-based space with evolving themes for years.
Before opening her own business, Evans worked in art galleries and helped set up exhibitions. She used art galleries as an inspiration for her business because she loved the way the galleries often featured new exhibitions with evolving themes. She wanted to cultivate a unique space that showcased different themes to entice customers to continue coming back.
With each new theme, Edge of the Universe also releases a new menu based on the theme.
“Each new exhibit is my new favorite,” Evans says.
Evans says she hopes to one day franchise her business. Each Edge of the Universe would be filled with local art, pastries and coffee from local businesses, and no two would look the same.
She wanted to create a space that was not just a building, but a full experience for her guests. The shop has created different events such as Trivia Tuesday and Bingo Wednesday. The weekly gatherings held by Edge of the Universe are free to the public and are a fun way for Evans and her employees to interact with guests.
One of the ways Evans has created a safe space is through events. For example, one event featured speed dating. She set up “interest tables” where people chose where to sit based on different topics. The café provided Pride flag stickers in place of name tags.
An integral part of her business philosophy is to provide an open, welcoming and safe space for all people.
“I want to have a place where the community tells me what they need,” Evans says. ◆